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ACUMINOR REPORT 2019:1
– An insight into the financial activities of terrorist recruitment
Lately, there has been an increased focus on so-called recruitment financing of terrorists. Albeit, there is no clear definition of the concept, FATF describes it as “recruitment financing includes any funds used, actively or passively, to recruit members to join a terrorist organisation or to pursue its goals”. The activities involved in recruitment financing is not a new phenomenon, but other parts of terrorist financing have drawn more attention in the last years, such as the financing of foreign terrorist fighters and finances channelled directly to conflict zones in for example Iraq and Syria.
However, the setbacks IS has suffered in conflict zones have caused a displacement in allocated sources to such zones. Now, the terror organisation provides financial support to recruitment networks, some of which are active in Europe. In addition, many of the foreign terrorist fighters who travelled to conflict zones have returned to their country of residence in Europe, and they are of specific importance in recruitment efforts.
“THE MAIN AGENDA OF RECRUITERS AND RECRUITMENT NETWORKS IS FOREMOST TO RECRUIT INDIVIDUALS TO TERROR ORGANISATIONS, BUT ALSO TO SPREAD TERRORIST IDEOLOGY AND FACILITATE NEW MEMBER ACTIVITIES”
RECRUITERS AND RECRUITMENT NETWORKS
Recruitment efforts are made both by individual recruiters and recruitment networks, the former may be self funded whilst the latter is more often of an organised nature. Due to the level of organisation of the networks, they tend to receive more financial support from terror organisations than individual recruiters. The main agenda of recruiters and recruitment networks is foremost to recruit individuals to terror organisations, but also to spread terrorist ideology and facilitate new member activities. Consequently, recruiters are not directly involved in terrorist acts. They are instead more involved in supporting new members, both financially and motivationally, and disseminating propaganda material or provide training.
HIGH RISK RECRUITERS
Returned foreign terrorist fighters, so-called returnees, pose a significant risk if active in recruitment networks. Returnees have a high status due to their experiences, indoctrination and combat skills that have been acquired in the conflict zones. It is also likely that returnees in different countries in Europe are in contact with each other, which could facilitate cross-border recruitment networks. These individuals have likely also acquired knowledge of how to plan and conduct attacks, which can be transferred to new recruits.
The recruitment efforts vary and can be both active and passive in their nature. The active recruitment method entails direct personal contact between the recruiter and the prospective recruitment, whilst the passive recruitment method includes indirect contact, which for example can be initiated online.
There have been alarming indications of the former, active recruitment, directed towards the Muslim immigrant flow to the EU. Recruiters in the EU have sought out and taken advantage of immigrants with a low socioeconomic status in a particularly vulnerable situation. Active recruitment efforts have also been discovered in deprived urban areas, at religious gatherings, in mosques and in correctional facil- ities. It appears as though it is more common that men are approached in active recruitment. In passive recruitment on the other hand, both men and women are approached. Passive recruitment efforts are continuously discovered in social media and other types of online platforms.
“RECRUITMENT FINANCING IS A CONCRETE AND REAL THREAT TOWARDS OUR SAFETY AND SECURITY”
INCOMES AND EXPENDITURES
Regardless of the chosen point of contact, recruiters and recruitment networks have both incomes and expenditures. The main sources of income are support from the terror organisation, crowdfunding and donations, and profits from criminal activities. Individual recruiters, however, tend to be self-funded or receive relatively small donations for their activities. Since the financial activity of an individual recruiter tend to be low, they can be very difficult to detect. Recruitment networks on the other hand tend to have larger incomes, and larger expenditures. The costs are primarily allocated to housing, transport and renting of meeting premises; other costs entail the production of fraudulent documents, and the production and dissemina- tion of propaganda material.
MISUSE OF FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
In recruitment financing, both donations, other types of incomes and expenditures are received and sent in several different ways. Recruitment financing has for example been linked to crowdfunding services, money transfer services, hawalas and banks where, for instance, personal bank accounts and accounts of non-profit organisations have been used. The rapid developments in financial technology have also been exploited in recruitment financing, where both virtual currencies, e-wallets and mobile phone accounts have been identified in investigated cases.
CHALLENGING BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO DETECT
Recruitment financing is a concrete and real threat towards our safety and security. Law enforcement relies on the financial industry to detect ongoing recruitment of terrorists as part of the work against financial crime. This might sometimes be challenging, especially since many relevant transactions and customers are domestic or are related to EU countries. The risks from recruitment financing should nevertheless be included in the financial crime risk assessment of relevant regulated companies. With that as an outset, there are ways to create effective risk mitigat- ing actions such as transaction monitoring, customer risk scoring and staff training. By doing so, it not only helps the company at hand fulfil the regulatory requirements – but also help society prevent the terrorists from growing in numbers and strength.
You are free to use this report for your own personal development, in internal training or in other risk management activities. You are of course not allowed to resell this report, nor claim that you have made it yourself.
Please remember to state the source as follows:
Acuminor. (2019).Before it’s too late – An insight in financial activities of terrorist recruitment . Report 2019:1. Stockholm: Acuminor.
© Acuminor 2019
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